Fine dining offered at Pheasant Knoll Farm by David Lias Virginia Koster is best known in these parts as a former Vermillion restaurateur. She established and managed Emma�s Kitchen in downtown Vermillion and worked as head chef there for four years.
In 1997, Koster left Vermillion to return to her roots on the east coast and pursue some dreams � some of which came true.
�I got to prepare and serve a meal for Julia Child,� she said. �That�s been a lifelong dream of mine.�
Chasing and fulfilling dreams wasn�t enough to keep Koster away from southeastern South Dakota.
�I�m originally from Massachusetts, but I just kept thinking something was missing from my life,� she said. �I missed being here. I missed the plains.�
Koster has returned to South Dakota and has found a unique way to share her culinary knowledge with others.
She now lives on a farm near Irene that offers a splendid view of South Dakota�s countryside. �At night, you can see the lights of Yankton,� she said.
She calls her home Pheasant Knoll Farm, and she has turned it into a place where she can serve good food and teach others how to prepare good food.
�I think I�ve come up with a way to share my enthusiasm for serving good food even though I no longer own a restaurant here,� she said.
Koster has established a private dining fee. Couples or individuals may join by paying a small fee. Club members may call for reservations for five-course weekend dinners served on Friday and Saturday evenings at the farm.
Only dining club members and their guests may dine at Pheasant Knoll Farm.
Diners may enjoy strolls about the country cottage, and through herb and vegetable gardens.
A different five-course meal, using only the finest of seasonal and regional ingredients, is prepared each weekend for club members, who enjoy their dinner in a leisurely fashion in a relaxed setting.
Club members may arrange for private dinners or luncheons for groups of six or more any time of the week at the farm or in their own private settings. Meals and receptions can be provided for groups as small as six or for special events with more than 300 people.
All menus are individually planned, designed and priced. There are no stock lists of entrees or hors d� oeuvres. Each menu is planned to suit individual needs.
During her return to the east coast, Koster advanced her culinary career by working for Bruce Tillinghast, a chef nominated for the James Beard Award, at the New Rivers Restaurant in Providence, RI.
She also developed recipes and did food writing for Nancy Verde Barr, a cookbook author and former executive chef for Julia Child.
Recently, she worked with celebrity chefs Johanne Killeen and George Germon of Al Forno Restaurant in Providence, RI, and helped them organize materials for their upcoming second cookbook.
�I�m trying to provide an atmosphere of really fine dining,� Koster said.
She also is passing along some of her expertise by offering cooking classes throughout the year on a variety of topics for club members and guests.
The classes are designed to be fun. Koster uses recipes as guides, not gospel. Her goal is to teach people to be in charge of their own kitchens, to follow their feelings and trust their senses of taste and smell, and to abandon their inhibitions when it comes to food preparation.
The five-course meals are $35 per person. Individuals interested in joining the dining club, in having an event catered, or in taking cooking classes may call Koster at Pheasant Knoll Farm. The phone number is 605-263-3246.